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About Sustaining Voices

Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.


Adidas is reducing its reliance on virgin plastic—and cleaning up the oceans at the same time.

Deep Dive

Adidas’s battle against plastic waste continues apace.

The sportswear juggernaut hasn’t employed plastic bags in its stores since 2016. And last July, the brand vowed to replace all virgin polyester with 100 percent recycled alternatives “in every product and on every application where a solution exists” by 2024.

“As one of the largest manufacturers of sportswear and athletic footwear, it is very clear for us: we wish to be part of the solution,” a spokesperson said. “The choice of materials and how they are manufactured are the two main ways by which our innovation teams can influence the environmental footprint of our product.”

The company, which the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices singled out in 2018 as a leader in the textiles, apparel and luxury goods sector, is also ramping up its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental think tank that turns “intercepted” marine plastic into a raft of premium materials for the fashion industry.

After churning out 1 million pairs of Parley Ocean Plastic-clad shoes in 2017 and 5 million in 2018, Adidas says it’s on track to produce 11 million pairs of sneakers made with recycled ocean plastic in 2019. The brand has also been incorporating the material into apparel, including a line of yoga wear for its Adidas by Stella McCartney label.

Each of these items, the spokesperson said, marks a “small contribution to the preservation of our oceans.”

Adidas says it wants to attack the plastic problem on the other end, too, by curtailing the output of waste from the get-go. In April, it unveiled the Futurecraft.Loop, a 100 percent recyclable sneaker, composed only of thermoplastic polyurethane, that is designed to be returned, broken down and remade into other products.

But sustainability at Adidas goes “far beyond recycled plastic,” it insists. In 2018, the brand signed the United Nations Climate Protection Charter for the Fashion Industry, agreeing, among other things, to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. As a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, Adidas sources only sustainably produced cotton.

“The company continues to improve its environmental performance,” the spokesperson said. “This includes the use of sustainable materials, the reduction of CO₂ emissions and waste prevention.”

In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?

“One area is definitely the increasing use of sustainable materials. As an example, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans have prevented vast amounts of plastic from entering the oceans to date as part of the drive toward Adidas’s ambitious goal of eliminating the use of virgin plastics by 2024.”

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